About Martha Nordstrand

Martha A. Nordstrand

I was born in the Deep South to a family of quiltmakers, needleworkers and dedicated fabric and flower lovers. I have often said that I was born with a needle in my hand. The truth is that my grandmother placed it there when I was only three.

I spent hours in my favorite place, her scrap bag in the closet; cutting and stitching little dresses and quilts for my dolls. My grandmother made quilts for the love of quilts and to provide coverings for beds and I can’t remember ever sleeping under a store- bought blanket. The quilts she made were not only for the sake of beauty they were for warmth or for pallets for the floor to use when company came. Some of my most vivid childhood memories are being under and on top of a Grandmother's Flower Garden or Tumbling Blocks quilt.

Many years passed and I drifted from crochet and knitting to embroidery and needlework. In school, I wanted to major in art so I daubed in oils and watercolor, and sketching but I found myself losing interest after a short time. I did know enough about art to recognize bad art and so I gave up dreams of being a great designer and artist.

I always seem to be drawn to fabrics and textiles and my closet of fabrics was proof of that fact. I made simple little ninepatch quilts for my daughter, baby quilts for friends, a log cabin (didn’t we all start there?) And finally it dawned on me that I had taken a complete circle back to where I started in my grandmother’s scrap bag.

From that point, I tried everything to find where I belonged in the quilting world. While I was wandering through this wilderness, the fabrics changed from old browns and oranges and yellows to the beautiful beginnings of the hand dyes and selections we have today. The fabrics inspired and dictated the direction of my quilting style.

Since I love flowers and gardening I found myself drawn to applique. I tried some applique flowers but they were too stylized and stiff and I wanted them to look just as they grew in my garden. I poured over my horticultural books and decided to attempt something new, flowers that look like flowers. I also wanted to use embroidery stitches to embellish and finish off the designs.

I have wandered through every type of applique style…English piecing, paper piecing, freezer paper, needle turn and many more conventional methods before I found my own style of designing and interpreting flowers into fabric.. Inspired by my late dear friend, Jessie Harrison, I finally developed a technique using glue sticks and label paper that was simple and precise to create the fine lines and delicate petals and leaves.

Not everyone can be a great piecer, or a great machine quilter, or great at appliqué. It is important they we try to find what we really love doing and then do it!

Many years ago when my grandmother passed away, her belongings were distributed to all the family. Silver, crystal, etc., but mine was the greatest of all; a simple quilt, a tablecloth (both I watched come into being) and her precious bag of fabric scraps. It was only appropriate that my first serious quilt was a grandmother’s flower garden. I now live in a small townhouse with limited space; therefore, my quilts are full of flowers that have become an extended garden. I now sleep under my own "flower garden" of quilts, which completes my circular journey from my modest beginnings.

After much experimentation, I finally implemented a new way to prepare and apply appliqué pieces to background fabrics. I love teaching and sharing this method with all levels of quilt makers. In some ways it is revolutionary and in others, it is very simple. Appliqué is still my favorite style of quilt making.

I have been quilting off and on for over 50 years, but seriously for the past 15. After movingto San Diego from the San Francisco Bay area almost 9 years ago, I joined my first guild. This was one of the wisest things I have ever done. I have met some wonderful quiltmakers: old and young, novices and veterans, but all beautiful needlework artists. I have now relocated to Arizona and love the new scenery, environment and weather!

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